Direct Connect

Uday Mahurkar’s latest book—Centrestage: Inside the Narendra Modi Model of Governance—had quite a high profile launch recently, with the book being launched at the Rashtrapati Bhawan by Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley along with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. A senior journalist from Gujarat, Mahurkar has been a close observer of Modi’s politics from his days as Chief Minister and now clearly has the inside track on Modi’s PMO. Speaking at the launch, Finance Minister Jaitley also talked about the PM’s “Mann Ki Baat” programme (a compilation of his radio shows by Rajesh Jain was also released simultaneously). Jaitley commented how the success of the PM’s radio shows lay in the fact that he was communicating directly to the people, “over the heads of TV anchors”. According to him the strength of a great leader lay in his communication skills and the PM clearly had a direct connect with the people. Later, a BJP leader explained, “What was interesting here is the sub-text: that the PM clearly prefers a direct connect with the people rather than rely on agenda-based anchors.”

The Presidential Stakes

There is much speculation about the Presidential elections that are due in July. Many names are doing the rounds, but the one that is ahead of the others in this week’s stakes is the Governor of Maharashtra Vidyasagar Rao. Please note that the stakes change every week. But Rao is said to have the backing of both Narendra Modi and the RSS. And it’s clear that the numbers game being what it is, it will be the government that calls the shots, especially after the AIADMK has thrown in its lot with the NDA as well. Sources also rule out either L.K. Advani or Murli Manohar Joshi being in the race. And knowing Modi, there could well be a dark horse candidate that will be sprung at the last minute. Najma Heptullah was also seen in the capital recently, perhaps lobbying for the minority and woman quota, but then, that’s not the way Modi-Shah play the game. Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu are other names doing the rounds, but can Modi appoint a second rung BJP face while ignoring Advani-Joshi? Another name being speculated about is Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, but sources indicate that her candidature was very short lived, even in the realm of speculation. As for the Opposition, there seems to be some divide, with Sonia Gandhi preferring Meira Kumar and Mamata Banerjee pushing Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s candidature. But, in the end, the way the votes will fall, all this is semantics.

Vice Presidential Stakes

While the media is busy speculating about the choice of the next President of India, the surprise could be in the choice of a Vice President as well. Sources say that the Prime Minister is thinking of going in for a much younger face this time round (younger than Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj). In fact, according to a well-placed source, had the late Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave still been alive, he could have been a candidate. That, apparently, is the sort of profile the PM is looking for, since the post of Vice President requires both maturity and energy, as the incumbent also has to manage the Rajya Sabha.

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